The history of using paper for wiping goes back to the 6th century in medieval China.


Around the late 1300’s, Chinese royalty (and their families) reportedly used 2’ by 3’ pieces of perfumed paper to clean themselves.  Commoners continued to use other readily available materials such as: rags, wood shavings, leaves, straw, grass, sand, moss, corn husks, corn cobs, newspapers, seashells, etc. Ancient Romans utilized (and re-utilized) sea sponges affixed to the end of a stick.


When it comes to the U.S. is when it becomes unclear who is responsible for it’s beginnings.  In 1857 Joseph Gayetty began selling “medicated paper” made of hemp with added aloe. He printed his name on every sheet.  A man named Seth Wheeler reportedly patented and sold rolls of perforated wrapping (or “toilet”) paper in 1871 on the eastern seaboard.  About the same time, it is said that Edward and Clarence Scott of New York began selling rolls of toilet paper. To avoid any direct and/or possibly embarrassing connection to the Scott family, it was known as “Waldorf Tissue”.  Later it was openly known as Scott Tissue. Due to the record being unclear as to whether their initial product was perforated or not, it can probably be assumed that Wheeler’s patent probably paved the way to produce rolls of perforated toilet paper.)  Also happening during this time, old hotels along the eastern seaboard began installing indoor plumbing and new hotels were doing the same. This indicated that the time was right for the introduction of perforated rolls of toilet paper. December of 1891 found Seth Wheeler patenting rolled/perforated single ply toilet paper.  


Toilet paper was made and sold directly to users (hotels, etc.) for many years thereafter.  During these times advertising such a product to the public via newspaper ads was considered improper and/or unmentionable.  Ads to the public began sometime in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.


Hoberg Paper Company of Green Bay, WI produced a much softer addition to , which according to company lore, were considered “charming” and thus Charmin was born.


Rumor has it that it took until the mid-1930’s for the “industry” to be able to reliably produce toilet paper without splinters.


Though there is little definitive evidence to say that the use of toilet paper was a direct factor in the decrease of cholera, dysentery, and typhoid in the US; a noted decrease in the spread of these diseases did align with the years wherein toilet paper started to become a more commonly used hygienic item.  


Many of us will also agree that the Wheeler patent image shows toilet paper on the roll the “right way”.  Source: Sewer History Files 2015; charmin.com